Kisan Call Centre: 'Advisers' mostly rely on own knowledge to guide farmers: Study
Indian Express, Pune
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Farmers in Maharashtra still prefer seeking agriculture-related information from fellow farmers but the community is fast switching to mobile phones for such information, according to a recent study submitted to the Union Ministry of Agriculture. Led by researcher Sangeeta Shroff from the Agro-Economic Research Centre at Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics (GIPE), the study aimed at understanding the structure, design, implementation and performance of the Kisan Knowledge Management System, Farmers’ Portal and M-Kisan portal operating in Maharashtra. Tele-calling to the Farmers’ Tele-Advisors (FTA) at Kisan Call Centre (KCC), Pune, is among the most favoured ways for cultivators seeking all kinds of information. The KCC operates with 69 ‘advisers’, who guide farmers, and two supervisers, receiving over 3,000 calls on an average everyday from across Maharashtra and Goa. The study covered 30 ‘advisers’ and 80 farmers from Pune, Ahmednagar, Solapur and Osmanabad districts. The study found that farmers heavily relied on it and mostly sought advices on what pesticide to be sprayed on crops under a disease attack, current market prices, appropriate insecticide to be sprayed on a crop, storage of farm produce, among others. Farmers who took part in the study said they fully depended on the KCC for credit and insurance decisions; 74 per cent of them sought advice on disease control while 67 per cent were keen to know about storage. Advice on sowing or how to improve quality was, however, barely sought from the KCC, leaving it solely to the farmer. Interestingly, the ‘advisers’ admitted they mostly relied on personal knowledge while guiding farmers than on government-provided booklets or information kits. “The ‘advisers’ combined their own knowledge with information gathered from web portals like KKMS, M-Kisan and others while fielding calls from farmers,” an expert at GIPE said. Surprisingly, no reference or guidance was taken from nodal officers or experts at agriculture colleges or universities, both of whom are integral to running these call centres. While 80 per cent of the ‘advisers’ said they had a degree in agriculture, about 13 per cent have a postgraduate degree in the subject but 22 of the 30 ‘advisers’ who participated in the research said they had no previous work experience. Number of farmers dialling the call centre rose from 2.21 lakh in 2004 to 48.01 lakh in 2014-2015. With 2.22 lakh calls, Ahmednagar district tops the charts (see box). Calls to KCCs peak during the harvest season, the study found. “With a fixed cropping pattern for paddy followed along the west coast, very few farmers called KCCs for advice,” the study noted. So far, only five farmers have called the centre from Palghar, the least from among the 36 districts of the state. Similarly, Sindhudurg (2,503), Mumbai (2,776), Ratnagiri (2,821), Raighad (3,433) and Thane (7,636) are among places which logged less number of calls. Interestingly, mobile phones have become the most preferred medium among the farming community to gather information: 62 of the 80 farmers who took part in the study said they gathered information from mobile phones, either through SMS or other means; 34 farmers extensively used internet on cellphones to avail farming-related information. An equal number of farmers also depended on TV.